Dear My Friend Who Voted for Trump,
I know you exist, as you make up roughly one out of two voters, though we haven’t discussed politics or our differing of opinions much. You know my stance, as a liberal atheist, because I’m not shy about what I post on social media, and I have a big mouth even in person, after a couple of glasses of wine. You have either also made your position clear, in a non-confrontational manner, on social media, or made a mental note not to engage me regarding your voting habits.
When we’re together, we talk about the things we do have in common. You also have a kid who flips bottles and makes you want to tie him up so he’ll stop. We’re both obsessed with Real Housewives, but only the Beverly Hills one (Erika Jayne FOREVER). I really want you to teach me your winged eyeliner technique. It’s not just superficial things we’ve related about, either. We’ve had long discussions about the importance of vaccinations. We’ve shared stories about the difficulties of marriage, relationships, and family dynamics. You listened when I needed someone to vent to about a fight with my mom. We had a conference call to discuss our one crazy friend’s MLM and how to gently tell her to shut it. When my cat went missing you sent me a heartfelt message expressing your sadness. When your grandma passed away I sent a flower arrangement.
I’ve spent most of today thinking about you.
At first I was angry and bitter. I mean, seriously, how could you? You put our country into the hands of Hitler dipped in Cheeto dust. You gave a man who bragged about sexual assault and said women who have abortions should receive criminal punishment the highest office in our nation. How much do you really hate women and minorities?
As the day wore on and the shock began to recede, confusion and despair set in. How can we possibly continue to be friends? On social media, you were proud, today. You were #blessed about the victory, and hopeful this will bring about the change you’ve been praying for for our country. The disparity between your reaction and mine sickened me. How could I be afraid the world is going to end at the hands of a madman, while you simultaneously rejoice in his leadership? Was I wrong about you all along? How could I ever have cared about you when you would put my gay friends in a position where they wished they’d stayed in the closet? My youngest son woke up this morning, and upon hearing the election results immediately worried for the safety of his best friends who live down the street, Roberto and Alejandro. “Didn’t Trump say he wants to kick Mexicans out of the country?” he asked us, and I wondered what you’d have said if you were standing there.
At one point I decided I would just need to cut ties. I’d root you out of my social network like a weed. I’d find you, and eliminate you from my diverse garden of flowers. It was the only way to maintain a healthy ecosystem, I told myself.
The thing is, though, this line of thinking is part of what got me blindsided by all of this in the first place. I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded individuals. Facebook does a good job in assisting this process. When I like a post, I see more posts similar to it. A person who I consistently affirm agreement with will more often show up in my feed. I read editorialized articles from news sources I know come from a similar perspective as me. I listen to Howard Stern on the radio in the car. I didn’t do any of this intentionally to insulate myself from other perspectives, but at some point, it started to seem like there were no other opinions. Everything coming in sounded right to me. How could anyone think or feel anything different?
But apparently, you, a person I care about and respect to one degree or another, do. You feel wildly different. And not just one of you, half of our country of you. Did you vote for Trump because you felt disrespected by the liberal media? Did you vote for him because you truly believe Secretary Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy? Did you feel like your way of living was in jeopardy and Trump was the only one looking out for you? Were you scared voting for Clinton would create a landslide in a political direction you’d couldn’t control that would take out everything you’d been raised to hold sacred?
These are questions I don’t know the answer to because I didn’t ask them. I didn’t engage you about your political concerns or beliefs. It seemed awkward, and potentially exhausting. I read things and talked to people who reaffirmed my own beliefs. It was simpler. And now here I am, shocked, horrified, and alienated from you.
When my third grader got home from school today I sat him down and we had a long talk about the election results. Because of his age and my misguided belief Trump was going to be a mere blip on our radar, I had protected Jonas from my concerns about his potential leadership and the character flaws I was witnessing. But now that he is to be our President for the next four years, I felt like it was important to share my worries with Jo and reiterate the importance of not being a bully and being kind to other people. “When you interact with people, you need to remind yourself we all come from a different perspective. It feels different to grow up white, black, asian, gay, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, man, woman, from the city, from the country, with strict parents, with hippie parents, and a million other factors. These things all make us think differently and live life from our own viewpoint. This is a good thing. It’s important to be sensitive to all people, from all backgrounds, and not assume you know what they’re like by any of these categorizations,” I told him. As the words were leaving my mouth, the irony of the situation did not escape me.
I don’t agree, even a little bit, with what you did. I’m still dismayed by the prospects for the future of our country, and disappointed by the choice you made. I don’t even know if I’m ready to talk to you right now about why you voted the way you did. But I do know that we’re all people, born and grown with a different perspective. I can’t know what made you feel how you did growing up any more than I did my black friend who grew up in our mostly white, Mesa, Arizona suburb. I mean, sure, it seems like she and I had similar influences, and you and I have similar interests, but at heart, our experiences and challenges are different. If I’m to consider myself respectful of all humans, it’s my duty to try to understand where you’ve come from in addition to her.
Going forward, I intend to shed my anger and dismay. Donald Trump, like it or not, will be our next President. I can only add my hope to the chorus for the continued progress of this country toward equal treatment of all humans, and do my best to support causes I think will further this goal. I hope, if nothing else, you’ll unite with me in this.